Who are the real Gold Glovers?

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The awards, which are mean to honor the best fielders at each position, actually fail at that central mission with an alarming frequency. Among the criticisms of the awards are that they favor hitters and more popular players, all the outfield recipients are allowed to be centerfielders, and that the most deserving defenders are not selected often enough.

In an excerpt from The Fielding Bible, John Dewan of Baseball Info Solutions talks about their formula for discovering the game's true defensive stars and reveals who those stars actually are. (For more unique statistical analysis, visit www.actasports.com to purchase the 2009 Bill James Handbook.)

We asked our panel of ten experts to rank 10 players at each position from one to ten. We then use the same voting technique as the Major League Baseball MVP voting. A first place vote gets 10 points, second place 9 points, third place 8 points, etc. Total up the points for each player and the player with the most points wins the award. A perfect score is 100. One important distinction that differentiates our award from most other baseball awards, including the Gold Gloves, is that we only have one winner for all of Major League Baseball, instead of separate winners for each league. Our intention is to stand up and say "This is the best fielder at this position in the major leagues last season."

Catcher:Yadier Molina, St. Louis Cardinals

First Base: Albert Pujols, Cardinals

Second Base: Brandon Phillips, Cincinnati Reds

Shorstop: Jimmy Rollins, Philadelphia Phillies

Third Base: Adrian Beltre, Seattle Mariners

Leftfield: Carl Crawford, Tampa Bay Rays

Centerfield: Carlos Beltran, New York Mets

Rightfield: Franklin Gutierrez, Cleveland Indians

Think of the MVP Award, the Cy Young Award, the Silver Slugger Award, Relief Man of the Year Award, etc. The key difference between these awards and the Gold Glove awards, is that statistics are much more strongly considered in the former group. Gold Glove voters historically have not relied much on fielding statistics, and with good reason: there haven't been many new reliable statistics in fielding for over 100 years. Until now (I hope). There are several new systems out there, and the Plus/Minus System from my book, The Fielding Bible, seems to be working pretty well. Video Scouts at Baseball Info Solutions chart each and every batted ball, including batted ball speed, type and direction. Using that information, the Plus/Minus System determines how well each fielder handles batted balls within each category compared to other fielders. A plus five (+5) in the system, for example, says this particular fielder successfully handled five more balls than the average fielder at his position. (NOTE: Catchers are not given a plus/minus rating by BIS because they rarely "field" balls hit to them.)